Here are some truths:
• Publishing is in flux and no one is quite sure what the future looks like.
• Publishers are merging, resulting in fewer places to submit manuscripts.
• Many authors who have published numerous books are finding their advances going down, not up.
• With self-published books now plentiful, there are more books than ever before for readers to choose from.
• It is difficult figuring out how to effectively market books.
• A book’s potential sales are highly unpredictable.
• Many authors’ books don’t live up to the publisher’s sales expectations, meaning the publisher might not want to renew their contract.
• Poor sales figures can make it difficult or impossible to get another traditional book deal.
• Writing can be difficult and frustrating.
• Sometimes it’s hard to meet deadlines.
• The publishing journey often doesn’t live up to an author’s expectations.
In the midst of these truths, I frequently counsel writers who are experiencing moments of disappointment and dejection. They might be anxious that a series of speed-bumps could signal the end of their writing career, sometimes before it has even started. Often they are questioning whether it’s time to give up. Some are sad, thinking their lifelong dream is dying. A few are wondering how they are going to pay the bills.
While I understand that everyone has to deal in their own way with disappointment, and we all have a right to respond to setbacks in our own way, I also want to encourage everyone to avoid getting bogged down in despair. Because here are some other truths:
• A few bumps in the road doesn’t mean your dream has to end.
• Publishing setbacks are not “failures” but necessary and expected rites of passage in this business.
• Just because things didn’t go the way you envisioned doesn’t mean things can’t still go well — possibly after a re-envisioning of your goals.
• People are reading more than ever, meaning we need writers more than ever.
• There are more options than ever before for getting your work in front of readers and getting paid for it.
• You can embrace your identity as a writer, and refuse to let external circumstances change that.
• The best way to deal with dejection is to stand up and fight. Don’t let yourself settle in to the despair. You’re not a quitter — pull out that fighting spirit and decide to be a writer regardless of the obstacles.
I’m not trying to be a cheerleader or a pollyanna. It’s just that I spend a lot of time talking writers off ledges, and I understand what that ledge looks like. But you cannot afford to spend much time on the ledge. You need to get back to work. You need to acknowledge your fear and your frustration, then turn it around and make a new plan. You need to refuse to spend time worrying about things over which you have no control (the publishing industry at large, for instance) and focus on what you CAN influence.
Just don’t let yourself get trapped in despair. You can’t afford the time. Get back to work!
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